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Remembering President Jim Ebben

President 1987-2004

Edgewood College joins family, friends, and colleagues in remembering and mourning President Emeritus Jim Ebben. Dr. Ebben died Monday, November 30, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. 

Dr. Ebben was President of Edgewood College from 1987 until his retirement in 2004. His service to the College is marked by explosive enrollment growth, and significant expansion of campus facilities. 

“It is said we stand upon the shoulders of those who have come before us,” President Andrew Manion, said. “With Dr. Ebben’s passing, our students, faculty, and staff all recognize that truth; Jim’s leadership, compassion, imagination, and heart are felt every day in this community. Dr. Ebben’s fidelity to the mission of Edgewood College, and his tireless service to our students, is a legacy that truly lives forever.”

During his 17 years as President, Edgewood College was transformed. The renovation and dedication of the Todd Wehr Edgedome enabled NCAA competition in that building for the first time. The Oscar Rennebohm Library, Sonderegger Science Center, Henry J. Predolin Humanities Center, and Marie Stephen Reges Hall - “Stevie Hall” - were constructed. With the creation of the Sonderegger Science Center came a new entrance to campus: the creation of Edgewood College Drive at Monroe Street. While Jim’s accomplishments shaping a modern campus are remarkable, he is best remembered for his passion for the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, and their dedication to building a more just and compassionate world through teaching and learning. 

Dr. Ebben’s fidelity to the mission of Edgewood College, and his tireless service to our students, is a legacy that truly lives forever.

Ann McCullough, O.P., was a longtime faculty colleague and currently serves on the Board of Trustees. 

“Losing Jim Ebben leaves a vacuum in my spirit,” Sr. Ann said. “Jim and Marilyn Ebben came to Edgewood College at a time when we needed him to lead the College into strength and compassion. He did that so well and Edgewood College is so much better for his presence.”

“I got to know Jim after he had retired as President through his many other activities in the Madison community,” Darrell Behnke, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “He was a treasure.  All are better from his faithful contribution to making the world a better place. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we join his family in mourning his loss.”

A Funeral Mass is scheduled for 11:00 am, Monday, December 7, 2020, at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison. Visitation begins at 9:30 am. The service will be livestreamed at www.stamadison.org.

Lucy Keane

"Jim was both a gentleman and a gentle man. Always quick with a smile, warm greeting and firm handshake. You were only a stranger to Jim once, then you were a friend. He had a spirit that exuded joy. Jim saved Edgewood College, period. The phoenix rose from the fire on his watch. That’s a pretty good legacy."

-Lucy Keane, '84, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

Frank Byrne, MD

“In addition to working with Jim and getting to know him through collaborations between St. Mary’s and Edgewood College, I am grateful for the honor of serving with Jim on the SSM Health Wisconsin board. In recent years, I enjoyed seeing Jim and catching him on Monday nights when we crossed paths at the Madison Club, where Jim was a regular participant in the weekly poker group.

Cindy and I join in sending our prayers, condolences and love to Marilyn, the Ebben family, and the community of Edgewood College."

-Frank D. Byrne, MD
Member of the Board of Trustees, and President Emeritus & Foundation Board Member at St. Mary’s Hospital/SSM

Sarah Naughton, O.P.

“The mixture of personal abilities, experiences and energies that Jim Ebben brought to his interview with the Search Committee to be the next President in 1987 matched the mission, vision and hopes of the Committee Members and Board Members of Edgewood College. 

His selection, arrival and years of service to the college community were a great gift to Madison, Dane County, the State of Wisconsin, and the global network of Dominican, independent, and public higher education.  May his spirit be with us and lead us Forward.”

-Sarah Naughton, O.P.
Served in multiple leadership roles at Edgewood College for more than 30 years, including Board Chair in 1987.

Maggie Hopkins, O.P.

“Jim Ebben was born to be a Dominican, it was in his DNA, it’s reflected in the fabric of his life.  He was a man who in all things was always on a Search for Truth, to discover, in his words, 'the piece of God in every person.' He was a man on a mission, a mission that matched that of Edgewood College, to create a more just and compassionate world."

-Maggie Hopkins, O.P.
V.P. for Dominican Mission, retired

Scott Flanagan, Ed. D.

"Jim Ebben was truly a gentleman and a scholar--a tireless visionary with an indomitable will. He grew up in a small town in the Fox Valley, and the lessons he learned there about faith, family, and hard work were reflected in how he lived his life. It is impossible to tell the story of Edgewood College without Jim Ebben. He laid the groundwork for future prosperity both literally--through extensive improvements to campus and a long-term master plan--and figuratively, through a renewed sense of purpose, strengthened academic and co-curricular offerings, and hard-earned financial stability. As ambassadors for the College, Jim and Marilyn exemplified an uncommon grace and class. I was proud to work alongside Jim, humbled to have the opportunity to build on his legacy, and blessed to count him as a mentor and friend."

- Scott Flanagan, Ed.D., former President of Edgewood College

Make a gift to the Ebben Family Endowed Scholarship